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Lucca is a captivating walled medieval city located in Tuscany, one of Italy’s most visited regions. The exploration of a destination city can be either measured in hours or in days - day tripper versus slow traveler. And we encourage the latter whenever possible… so stop and smell the pizza!
The Day Tripper’s View of Lucca
With a relatively tight timeframe, the challenge is to see as many highlights as possible during a brisk march through town and checking off the must-see sites within the city’s walls, such as…
Statue of composer Giaccomo Puccini and his home/museum
Church of San Michele in Foro
Cathedral of St. Martin
Piazza dell’Anfiteatro (Roman Amphitheater)
Torre delle Ore (Clock Tower)
OK… you have just “seen” Lucca!
If time permits, day trippers may add a brief walk (up one ramp and down the next) on the tree-lined pedestrian promenade known as the city walls - yep, been there done that, check the box and take a few pictures with your cell phone.
You can see them all in a one-day visit… but have you really seen them?
The Slow Traveler’s View of Lucca
Lucca is a fascinating city with a history dating back into ancient Roman and Etruscan (pre-Roman) times. On our first visit to a destination, in addition to the normal research, one of our go-to options is to arrange for a private orientation tour.
We were fortunate to find Wanda Martinelli (www.luccatours.com), who met us on our first day and set our tourist compass for the rest of our visit.
We enjoyed a four-hour walking history lesson which was enhanced by this talented storyteller who loves her work and is very proud of her ancestral roots. Through Wanda, we were immersed in the real vibe of this area and were now armed with a list of the best restaurants, shopping, museums, concerts, must-see churches (there are nearly 100!), and sources for survival provisions such as wine, bread, pasta, cheese, and deli.
Views along the Walls of Lucca
Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation inside and on the walls, and fortunately for us, our apartment rental included two bicycles. We rode numerous times on the 2½ miles of the flat, garden-like pedestrian promenade situated on top of the ancient defensive walls - which were actually designed by Leonardo di Vinci, no less!
Run, walk, ride or simply stroll along this elevated structure with amazing views of the entire city below… very much worth the time and effort… and a little exercise doesn’t hurt.
Pedestrian promenade on the city walls
Walking, pedaling, riding along the walls
Our wheels at one of many playgrounds
Private gardens along the city wall promenade
Palatial residences all along the path
Refreshments after a “strenuous” bike ride
A Few Colorful Local Scenes Along the Way:
A carousel in the park for all ages to enjoy
The local porcini mushroom sales team
What is a town without - The Dude
A Surprise Find: An Exceptional Photography Exhibit
Sculpture Installations Displayed Throughout the City - created by Rabarama
Pizzas We Have Known and Loved
As a slow traveler you can simply…. stop and smell the pizza!
Pizza da Felice – specializing in chickpea crusts
The perfect prosciutto pizza
A Few of the Amazing Meals
The Gli Orti di Vialisa is a renowned sidewalk café and has been a staple of Lucca for over three generations…
Polpette di nonna bianco (traditional fried meat balls)
Sformatino di verdue con salsa di fegatini (vegetables pudding/chicken liver sauce)
Lunch at Ristorante Giglio
Tortino ai funghi in crosta su vellutato di cecci
(ricotta cheese and mushrooms in a pastry crust with chickpea sauce)
Polpo croccante con sedano e olive nere (grilled octopus with celery and black olives)
Risotto zafferano e cozze (saffron risotto with mussels)
Maccheroni lucchesi ai funghi porcini (squares of fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms)
Lucca’s Favorite Native Son - Giacomo Puccini
Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was born in Lucca on December 22, 1858 into a very well-established musical dynasty dating back to his great-great grandfather.
He grew up in Lucca and developed into what has been noted to be “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi”… and that is saying a lot!
His birth home has been restored and turned into a small museum, but more importantly, his musical legacy is presented throughout the area in venues ranging from the annual Summer Opera Festival to daily recital concerts held in various locations in the city.
We were fortunate to enjoy an intimate recital of Madame Butterfly in the Church of San Giovanni, which was also the church where he was baptized. The setting was stunning and the acoustics were perfect.
The performances are varied from day to day and best of all the tickets are reasonably priced and readily available.
The Cathedral of Saint Martin
The legend goes something like this… in the 14th century, the powers that be held a “contest” among a group of well-known artists, tasking each of them to sculpt a support pillar for this Romanesque cathedral with its elaborate marble exterior.
When they were finished, no winner was declared and no one was even paid for their efforts…and the powers that be got away with it, too.
Cathedral façade (note the different pillar designs)
Breathtakingly beautiful workmanship
The cathedral also contains the most precious relic in Lucca…Volto Santo di Lucca is a wood crucifix with the image of Christ and was carved by Nicodemus, a disciple of Christ.
Volto Santo di Lucca (Holy Face of Lucca)
The medieval walled city of Lucca can be seen in one quick day but the essence and warmth of Lucca requires the investment of days rather than hours. Think of it like consuming a special meal or a good bottle of wine… savoring rather than gulping makes the difference between a memory and a digital image.
After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.
© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar
© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar, tourisminitaly.info, armchairtravelogue, tripomatic.com, lucca-italy.org